Diplomats trek to Palm Beach for the Red Cross Ball; Women’s Museum patrons cruise the Mediterranean
By Donna Shor
Palm Beach’s 53rd International Red Cross Ball proved it’s still the “Big One” of the town’s brief social season, with Mar-a-Lago’s sumptuous setting, a dozen ambassadors to be met in the receiving line and chatted up later, and an excellent dinner accompanied by a hot dance band.
The reason for it all, we were reminded by American National Red Cross chairwoman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, is to aid disaster victims with the ball’s $1 million proceeds. Compassionate Bonnie makes her concerns count; the entrepreneurial former ambassador to Finland is a wildly successful businesswoman. You can’t miss one of her company’s in-flight magazines when you board a plane.
The ball chairwomen were education and health crusader Susan Keenan; Michele Kessler, who funds cancer research and the killer measles scourge; and Mary Mochary, the quietly generous philanthropist and lawyer who has served as mayor of Montclair, N.J., run for Congress, collected major art, and advised the State Department on legal and foreign policy matters.
As at any large Palm Beach gala, there is always a Major Rumor: “Trouble in Trump’s marital paradise” went the buzz, fueled by Melania Trump’s long absence in New York with their son Barron. “Nothing to it,” said The Donald.
The chic Washington-related contingent refuted the “dowdy D.C.” myth. Bonnie’s sister Tweed Bogache, and their mother, Madeline McElveen, were elegant in pastels aside Bonnie in exquisite black lace. Who was she wearing? “Why, I just put two things together,” said Bonnie. “It’s the top of one dress and skirt of another.”
Kareen Kakouris, wife of the Ambassador of Cyprus, cleverly did the same, starting with an Armani top. Mexico’s petite Veronica Sarukhan stopped traffic in figure-molding white satin, and Afghanistan’s Shamim Jawad sported a great new hairdo with her distinctively cut gown.
Mochary supported the Palm Beach fashion zone, with a romantic burgundy chiffon from Worth Avenue’s John de Medeiros. Striking, as always, were Denise Alexander and Mary Ourisman. Julie Connors was terrific in a severe red column by Oscar de la Renta. “He’s always the perfect designer for me,” she said.
Washingtonians who winter in Palm Beach included Bill and Norma Tiefel, Mandy and Mary Ourisman, Marion “Joe” Smoak, and Wilma and Stuart Bernstein. Another with Washington roots was the ever-vivacious Mildred “Brownie” McLean, the widow of Jock McLean, whose legendary mother was famed Hope diamond owner and gold mine heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean. (The McLean family once owned The Washington Post and developed McLean, Va.) Last year Brownie, who has filled tables at the Red Cross Ball for more than 40 years, was honored at the charity’s spring Polo Luncheon for her lifetime commitment to the cause.
Many who attended the Red Cross Ball also joined me on travels to Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey on an Endowment Cruise organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Crossover contributors included Carol and Climis Lascaris, who organized the incredibly detailed trip; Judy and Dr. Ahmed Esfandiary; Dr. Milton and Gilan Tocco Corn; Mary Mochary and Dr. Phil Wine; Suzie Broyhill; and Mike Julie Connors.
Also aboard were the museum’s founder, Wilhelmina Holladay and her husband Wallace; PR whiz Gloria Dittus; Steve and Julia Hopping; Ashok and Tuti Kaveeshwar, who with Sharad and Mahinder Tak hosted an Indian dinner for 24 guests; Frances Luessenhop; Toni and John Gore; Audrey Thacker; Shirley Pearson; and Dancing Queens Myrna Colley-Lee and Marcia Carlucci.
Before boarding the Seabourn Pride, the Lascarises welcomed us to their stunning Athens apartment overlooking the Acropolis. The next night, jeweler Dino Anagnostopoulos displayed dazzling gems at a reception in his showroom.
Highlights of the trip from Piraeus to Alexandria, Egypt: strolling through flame-lit Ephesus for chamber music under the stars at the magnificent ruins of the Library of Celsus; the winding streets on the volcanic isle of Santorini; the Minoan villages of Crete; and the medieval architecture of Byzantine Rhodes, built partly within a Venetian castle – all underscored by on-board concerts performed by acclaimed young pianist Sara Daneshpour.